WWOOF. Not like a dog (that’d be a fascinatingly cheap way to see Ireland, right?). Let me better explain. It stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s an exchange opportunity for people to learn more about organic farming and its lifestyle. You volunteer and work on the farm and, in exchange, are provided with housing and food. It’s amazing because you get to see a completely different side of the country you are visiting and can eliminate food and living expenses.
A lot of travelling is done in the major cities of a country. But what about the other parts? Instead of the fast-paced city life, I had the rolling Irish hills and farmland experience. In the mornings, I was woken up not by the buses passing by my window, but rather the neighbor’s cows that never shut up. I still can’t decide which one I prefer.
I first heard about WWOOFing from two of my Spanish friends. They volunteered last year on a farm just south of Sligo, Ireland. They raved about how great it was. They met wonderful people and got their hands a little dirty. I had always wanted to see more of Ireland and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity.
The specifics of each farm are different, but on average, you’re expected to work 5-6 hours a day, with two days off for the weekend. My weekend days were spent hiking around the farm, going into Bantry (the town next to us) for the weekly Friday market, and taking a trip to Cork. My work days were filled with a variety of tasks. The main project I worked on was emptying out the garden shed where all the tools were kept. A Brazilian couple and I cleaned, installed a new wall, painted, sealed the floors, and built a new shelf. It gave me plenty of time to practice my Portuguese! Other tasks included helping build a Yurt (a portable Mongolian tent), staining different parts of said Yurt, feeding the chickens, and helping to prepare food.
If seeing the Irish countryside doesn’t suit you, don’t worry. There are WWOOF organizations in over 60 countries, spanning Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Each country has its own membership fee, which once paid, grants you access to the host contact information list. From there, you must contact your farms of interest to set up a time to go.
The WWOOF website will include an info section about each farm, describing things that go on there. Some farms are strictly vegetable growing, while others also have cows and pigs. As you research, decide on which one sounds best to you and then be sure to look for that in the blurbs. Remember to be open-minded and flexible in learning about lifestyles different from your own. Although sometimes I really wanted those cows to become burgers, it was still cool to wake up to that as an alarm clock. No matter what, it’ll be an awesome, cheaper, and unforgettable way to travel!